Muscat: Plans are underway for Facebook users to be able to send messages between Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, founder Mark Zuckerberg has announced.
As Facebook attempts to make its interactions more streamlined and therefore easier for people to use, the company plans to make communication between the different platforms easier, allowing people to connect with each other in a simpler manner.
“People want to be able to choose which service they use to communicate with people,” announced Zuckerberg. “However, today if you want to message people on Facebook you have to use Messenger, on Instagram you have to use Direct, and on WhatsApp you have to use WhatsApp. We want to give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer. We plan to start by making it possible for you to send messages to your contacts using any of our services, and then to extend that interoperability to SMS too. Of course, this would be opt-in and you will be able to keep your accounts separate if you'd like.
“There are privacy and security advantages to interoperability,” added Zuckerberg. “For example, many people use Messenger on Android to send and receive SMS texts. Those texts can't be end-to-end encrypted because the SMS protocol is not encrypted. With the ability to message across our services, however, you'd be able to send an encrypted message to someone's phone number in WhatsApp from Messenger.”
He went on to say, “This could also improve convenience in many experiences where people use Facebook or Instagram as their social network and WhatsApp as their preferred messaging service. For example, lots of people selling items on Marketplace list their phone number so people can message them about buying it. That's not ideal, because you're giving strangers your phone number. With interoperability, you'd be able to use WhatsApp to receive messages sent to your Facebook account without sharing your phone number -- and the buyer wouldn't have to worry about whether you prefer to be messaged on one network or the other.”
Zuckerberg’s latest plans also explained how this might be better for people to communicate with potential companies through a messaging service of their choice, instead of forcing themselves to learn and then use a messaging service that that company may be active on, but this person may not, causing him to be unfamiliar with it as a result.
“You can imagine many simple experiences like this -- a person discovers a business on Instagram and easily transitions to their preferred messaging app for secure payments and customer support,” he explained. “Another person wants to catch up with a friend and can send them a message that goes to their preferred app without having to think about where that person prefers to be reached, or you simply post a story from your day across both Facebook and Instagram and can get all the replies from your friends in one place.
He added, “You can already send and receive SMS texts through Messenger on Android today, and we'd like to extend this further in the future, perhaps including the new telecom RCS standard. However, there are several issues we'll need to work through before this will be possible. First, Apple doesn't allow apps to interoperate with SMS on their devices, so we'd only be able to do this on Android. Second, we'd need to make sure interoperability doesn't compromise the expectation of encryption that people already have using WhatsApp.
“Finally, it would create safety and spam vulnerabilities in an encrypted system to let people send messages from unknown apps where our safety and security systems couldn't see the patterns of activity. These are significant challenges and there are many questions here that require further consultation and discussion. But if we can implement this, we can give people more choice to use their preferred service to securely reach the people they want.”
One of the pressing concerns people have had over Facebook in the past – as has been the case with many other tech giants – is over what constitutes a violation of their privacy, and what the social media giant does with the data collected by it.
Facebook’s founder also claimed to have addressed concerns and aired plans over the secure data storage of their users, particularly after the company suffered a number of high-profile data leaks over the past year.
“People want to know their data is stored securely in places they trust,” he admitted. “Looking at the future of the internet and privacy, I believe one of the most important decisions we'll make is where we'll build data centres and store people's sensitive data. There's an important difference between providing a service in a country and storing people's data there. As we build our infrastructure around the world, we've chosen not to build data centres in countries that have a track record of violating human rights like privacy or freedom of expression.
“If we build data centres and store sensitive data in these countries, rather than just caching non-sensitive data, it could make it easier for those governments to take people's information,” revealed Zuckerberg. “Upholding this principle may mean that our services will get blocked in some countries, or that we won't be able to enter others anytime soon. That's a trade-off we're willing to make. We do not believe storing people's data in some countries is a secure enough foundation to build such important internet infrastructure on. Of course, the best way to protect the most sensitive data is not to store it at all, which is why WhatsApp doesn't store any encryption keys and we plan to do the same with our other services going forward.”
“But storing data in more countries also establishes a precedent that emboldens other governments to seek greater access to their citizen's data and therefore weakens privacy and security protections for people around the world,” he went on to add. “I think it's important for the future of the internet and privacy that our industry continues to hold firm against storing people's data in places where it won't be secure.”